Most of the following article has been adapted from “Marriage and Religious Liberty: Why the civil definition of marriage should matter to Catholics,” Minnesota Catholic Conference.
When a court or legislature adopts a definition of marriage as the union of any two people regardless of gender, legal experts — on both sides of the marriage debate — agree that there will be important consequences for society. Scholars from some of the nation’s most respected law schools have written that the issue impacts a host of other issues, ranging from religious liberty, to individual expression of faith, to education and the professions.
For example, these legal scholars (1) predict “a sea change in American law” and foretell an “immense” volume of litigation against individuals, small businesses and religious organizations. Those who do not agree with this new definition of marriage as a genderless institution existing for the benefit of adults — not children — will be treated under the law like bigots and will be punished for their beliefs.
This is already occurring:
- Religious groups who have refused to make their facilities available for same-sex couples have lost their state tax exemption (2).
- Religious groups like Catholic Charities in Boston and Washington, D.C., have had to choose between fulfilling their social mission based on their religious beliefs or acquiescing to this new definition of marriage. They have, for example, been forced to close their charitable adoption agenciesNonprofit groups are faced with abandoning their historic mission principles in order to maintain governmental contracts (for things like low-income housing, health clinics, etc).
- Whenever schools educate children about marriage, which happens throughout the curriculum, they will have no choice but to teach this new genderless institution. In Massachusetts, students as young as second-graders were taught about gay marriage in class. The courts ruled that parents had no right to prior notice or to opt their children out of such instruction (3).
- Wedding professionals have been fined for refusing to participate in a same-sex ceremony (4)Doctors, lawyers, accountants and other licensed professionals risk their state licensure if they act on their belief that a same-sex couple cannot really be married. A counselor, for example, could not refuse “marriage therapy” to a same-sex couple because she doesn’t believe in gay marriage. She would put her licensure at risk (5).
- People who believe marriage is between one man and one woman would be the legal equivalent of bigots for acting on their heartfelt beliefs. Refusal to accommodate and recognize “same-sex marriages” would be the equivalent of racial discrimination. Not only will the law penalize traditional marriage supporters, but the power of government will work in concert to promote this belief throughout the culture.
Beyond the U.S.
The impact of same-sex unions is currently being felt beyond U.S. borders.
In Canada, for example, marriage commissioners in the provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Saskatchewan must perform same-sex marriages or resign, according to an article last May in The Catholic Register in Toronto.
The National Catholic Register recently reported that civil union between three partners has been registered in Brazil, despite the constitution’s definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. “A Brazilian court earlier allowed homosexuals to marry under a ‘stable union’ status,” the article stated.
The same article also cited a new development in the United States in which the California State Assembly passed legislation in late August allowing judges the ability to declare more than two parents for a child; it applies to men and women, heterosexual and homosexual.
“This confirms everything we’ve been saying about the consequences of same-sex marriage,” Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, told the newspaper.
(1) Laycock, Douglas, Anthony R. Picarello, Jr. and Robin Fretwell Wilson. “Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts.” Found at http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5751998.Anthony_R_Picarello_Jr_.
(2) Capuzzo, Jill P. “Group Loses Tax Break Over Gay Union Issue.” The New York Times, Sept. 18, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/18/nyregion/18grove.html.
(3) Parker v. Hurley, United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, Jan. 31, 2008, cited at http://www.ca1.uscourts.gov/pdf.opinions/07-1528-01A.pdf.
(4) Elane Photography V. Willock, ADF – News Release, n.p., June 4, 2012, http://www.adfmedia.org/News/PRDetail/5537.
(5) Ward v. Polite, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, 4 Oct. 2011, cited at http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/12a0024p-06.pdf.